BGPS shadow days engage parents in their child’s learning

Pleasant Valley Primary School first graders practice their reading skills with instructional aid Diane O'Haver, while parent Monica Filan looks on.

A group of four first graders are seated in a semi-circle around a table, intently focused on instructional aid Diane O’Haver as she points to a series of words on a small whiteboard. As she stops on each word, the students read it aloud before taking turns naming every rhyming word that they can think of.

It’s a pretty common scene in Pleasant Valley Primary’s reading intervention classes. The only thing setting this apart from a typical class are the parents who have come to the school for a parent shadow day.

Battle Ground Public Schools offers learning intervention programs in reading, math, and English as a Second Language (ESL) to students in kindergarten through fourth grades. Research has shown that student progress can occur at a faster pace when parents engage in their students’ learning. As part of the district’s parent engagement efforts, several Battle Ground schools have started inviting parents to shadow their students in these programs several times per year so they can better understand what intervention supports look like while learning some key strategies for use at home.

“Learning intervention programs allow us to identify and address learning gaps and provide students the individual attention and support they need to build confidence in reading, math, and language skills,” said Pleasant Valley Primary Principal Mike Michaud. “Having parents attend their kids’ intervention classes strengthens the relationships between school and home and provides parents with an opportunity to experience a day in the life of their child.”

Students who score below benchmark levels for their age and grade are candidates for Battle Ground’s intervention programs, which are designed to help young learners who may benefit from learning in smaller groups to catch up to their peers. To introduce learning intervention programs to parents, schools used to offer once-per-year information sessions. Now, schools invite parents to shadow days for a first-hand look at what happens in intervention.

The shadow days are impactful for several reasons. At just 30 minutes long, each intervention class is short and sweet, but a lot happens in a short amount of time. On shadow days, parents get to see their child learning and participating in intervention, they meet the intervention specialists and ask questions, and perhaps most importantly, they eliminate any fear of not knowing about the program. Shadow days also help parents realize that they themselves are great teachers for their children.

“Parent shadow days highlight the efforts of our students and the instructional expertise of our classified and certificated staff working in these programs,” said Kathy Davis, a reading intervention specialist at Pleasant Valley Primary. “Parents consistently express how rewarding it is to see these programs in action and learn how they can help support their kids’ learning needs at home.”

Monica Filan, the parent of a first grader in Pleasant Valley’s reading intervention program, says she noticed a difference within the first week of her daughter attending the class. “She started reading to her stuffed animals to practice what she learns,” said Filan. “Coming to the shadow day was a big help because in addition to seeing and hearing how lessons are taught, I feel better equipped to help her in ways consistent with what she learns at school.”

The success of shadow days is leading to more schools extending the invitation to parents to glimpse what their children are learning in intervention programs. “Learning intervention specialists work hard to improve the academic skills and the confidence of each learner,” Principal Michaud said. “Involving parents in that process allows us all to witness and take ownership of the positive growth that each child experiences in these programs.”